Monday, November 14, 2011

3rd Annual All-Conference Teams

Right off the bat, I must say that this was the most difficult of the three years to construct these teams. A lot of players that just missed the list could be interchanged on the 3rd team and I'd be just fine. I don't think there is a clear Player of the Year this year at all. In some shape or form, almost all of the players I list on my 1st team below are worthy POY choices.

I would like to state as I have for three years now that I am primarily driven by numbers. That being said, the side of me that can recognize tools is slowly growing whereas the statistics side of my analysis is ingrained in me by training. Furthermore, I have far more conversations with people who actually vote on these lists throughout the year now and because of that I often become aware of players that coaches particularly like. But, I must admit, there are times when I hear coaches and others talk players up and my conclusion is still "the numbers aren't there... I just don't see it." Ultimately, if you have skills/tools, it should translate to production. Because of that, I tend to go off numbers, but not exclusively. I don't see all the teams. Neither do the Sports Information Directors.

Last year there was a discussion of AVCA guidelines for choosing players. Respectfully, I will ignore them. In my mind, they are biased against certain positions. If you would like to discuss this again, then please - send me an email and I will flesh out my thoughts on that in more detail.

Additionally, I will remind you that I actually pick "teams". The conference does not do this. Last year, the conference put 12 girls on the first team, six girls on the 2nd team and had 9 girls listed as honorable mention for a total of 27 girls recognized. I will have three teams of seven for 21 girls honored and then a list of the players I considered for the list and "just missed".

As I said each of the last two years: "There are seven starters each night for any particular team, so we will pick seven girls per team. Each team is required to have a a setter, libero, two middle blockers, two hitters and a seventh player that can either be MB or OH."

This list may get dissected at a later time, but my goal is to publish this each year on the Monday following the conclusion of the regular season. Primarily I do this so that I am not influenced by the official All-SLC teams which I expect to be named on Wednesday.

And now for the lists...

First Team

OH Carli Kolbe, Sam Houston
RS Amari Deardorff, Texas State
MB Amber Calhoun, Texas State
MB McKenzie Adams, UTSA
S Kelsey Schwirtlich, UTSA
L Alicia Shaffer, UTA
RS Whitney Walls, UTSA

Second Team

OH Tara Frantz, UTA
OH Elise Huskey, UTSA
MB Brittany Malloy, UTSA
MB Nicole Bowden, McNeese
S Caleigh McCorquodale, Texas State
L Kelsey Jewasko, UTSA
OH Melissa Toth, Texas State

Third Team

OH Amanda Aguilera, UTA
OH Stacy DiFrancesco, Northwestern State
MB Kim Black, Sam Houston
MB Ashlee Hilbun, Texas State
S Becky Bekelja, McNeese
L Madison Hanlan, SFA
OH Sierra Whittaker, Lamar

Just Missed:
OH: Jennifer Brandt, Nicholls

MB: A whole slew of players. Choosing MB's this year was tough. I considered all of the following for a 3rd team spot: Brooke Alverson, TAMUCC; Taylor Hammonds, UCA; Jessica Addicks, Nicholls; MC Bottles, SFA; Sabrina Burns, SFA; Christina Hobbs, Lamar.

S: Kym Loving, Sam Houston; Marissa Collins, UCA.

L: Cristin Curl, UCA.

Player of the Year: Amari Deardorff, Texas State
Setter of the Year: Kelsey Schwirtlich, UTSA
Libero of the Year: Alicia Shaffer, UTA
Newcomer of the Year: McKenzie Adams, UTSA
Coach of the Year: Brenda Gray, Sam Houston
Freshman of the Year: Stacy DiFrancesco, Northwestern State

I am not going to add a dissertation worth of a defense in this post, but I will give you some insight to some of my picks. First, I am happy with any of Deardorff, Kolbe, Calhoun, Walls or Adams winning player of the year. Deardorff has been my pick for several weeks now, but I strongly considered shifting to Kolbe in the last 48 hours. Ultimately, I went with Deardorff for two reasons: 1) In Texas State's most critical match in conference play - against UTSA recently, she came up huge: 19-1-39. When I read that box score last week it clicked in my mind...that's an MVP type performance when it really counted. 2) I can't ignore the attack errors for Kolbe and the fact that Deardorff only committed 56 errors all year. That hitting percentage is nearly twice that of Kolbe's. Now, I know that they differ a ton in total attacks and that Kolbe is a full six rotation player and Deardorff isn't. It's that kind of argument - along with the fact that Kolbe racks up a ton of digs because she plays all the way around - that is convincing.

Calhoun, Walls and Adams can all dominate too. Whitney Walls destroyed us. Her performance against SFA really sticks in my mind, but at the end of the day, I think I'd take Deardorff over Walls by just a hair. Again, if you prefer Walls, then I am not going to put up much of a fight.

For years, I have touted Nicole Bowden. I am through defending her. Her performance and numbers speak for themselves. I won't be surprised if the voters ignore both her and Bekelja. Collins will probably win the voters over because of her excellence last year. Bekelja is a fine defender, leading all setters in digs, and that's my tiebreaker on the 3rd team. I also suspect voters will rate Curl higher than I have, especially since she won the last Defensive Player of the Week award and that will be fresh in people's minds. Curl is a fine libero, I just don't believe she was as consistent as either of the three girls on my list.

Some may object to DiFrancesco purely because she racked up so many kills because of attacking over 1300 times and hit only .131. To this argument, I say: Where were you last year when you were making arguments for Emma Ridley? Now, DiFrancesco is no Ridley (not even close), I am just pointing out that Ridley also racked up kills in the same way as DiFrancesco.. namely, their teams tend to set them incredibly often. So what? She killed more balls than anyone in the conference. That's got to be worth at least 3rd team.

In terms of the 3rd team middle blockers, I broke the tie based on team quality. Some will object to this. In one version of this list, I had both of our own MB's in there. But, if you are going to put Burns in there, then you have to put Addicks in there because they are the same player. Hammonds was also in one draft, but ultimately I went with Hilbun and Black primarily because I have been personally impressed with the play I have witnessed from both of them and they play for better overall teams than those on the "just missed" list.

Finally, in terms of Coach of the Year. I know Groff and Chisum have a case.. and they are both good ones. Hey, remember I picked Groff last year when everyone had a love affair with McRoberts. But, let me ask you this: What's more impressive - taking a team that was picked to be first or second to the tournament as a #1 or #2 seed, or... taking a team picked as low as 7th in one poll and bringing them to the tournament as the #3?